Trivia Tuesdays: A Crime within a Crime

heavenlycreaturesSince I’m taking on thrillers and mysteries for this month, I thought I could talk about one of the most silliest but inevitable questions I’ve asked as a reader back when I was a kid growing up and steadily devouring crime books (that are way too adult for me) together with my RL Stine titles (Ah, nostalgia!). I know better now, of course, but back in the day, I always find myself wondering: where do crime authors get their ideas for all the gruesome details in their plots? Are all those from their imagination? Had they ever, at some point in their lives, wanted to commit crimes themselves? Okay, that question is admittedly juvenile. And then I came across this odd discovery a couple of years back.

The collage of pictures above are screen shots from this 1994 movie, Heavenly Creatures, directed by the famed Lord of the Rings Director Peter Jackson and starred Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet in her debut role. It is based on a real life dark, obsessive friendship between two 15-year old girls in New Zealand and the crime they have committed which became the much sensationalized Parker-Hulme Murder Case, in which they have conspired together to kill Parker’s mother by heavy blows in the head using a brick inside a stocking. Gruesome, yes. It was so hyped that a couple of books have been written about it.

So where’s the trivia in this, you ask? Let’s consider another collage of pictures for a moment.

heavenly2

Not familiar? She’s Anne Perry, one of the most prolific and popular writers of modern crime detective fiction. Since the film Heavenly Creatures garnered critical acclaim and box-office success, it has also created quite an uproar when it has been revealed that Anne Perry, the well-known author, is actually Juliet Hulme in real life—yes, one of the two girls charged for murder back in 1954. After being released from prison, she has actually changed her name legally when she moved to the United States. The other pictures are from her teenage years together with Pauline Parker, her best friend. You can read more about the details of the case HERE

I don’t mean to generalize of course, that all crime authors have a dark past. I just found it rather amusing that an Inception of sorts happen once in a while even in this thrilling literary genre. Life, has a sick sense of humor sometimes, and at it’s very best, you just can’t help but exclaim at its brilliance, muttering, ‘Wow, I didn’t see that coming!’

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Must-Have Mondays #6

house of leaves

HOUSE OF LEAVES
By Mark Z. Danielewski

Another addition to my growing and increasingly-frustrating book wishlist. Nothing like a compilation of book you’ve been salivating to buy but don’t have money for to remind you how much third world pains suck. Boohoo. But seriously, you guys.

I need this book in my life. Right now.

An In-Depth Analysis of my Shallowness

selection

Yes: I’m also judging myself right now. Oh cheesecakes, what have I gotten myself into? How to type this review without face-palming?

5 Red Warning Signs That I will not Like a book

1. Heroines with zero confidence. In YA, there’s a term especially coined for female protagonists who are suffering from low self-esteem and are excruciatingly annoying because of their mediocrity and blandness: TSTL ( Too-Stupid-To-Live ) Girls aka the damsels in distress. America Singer, our heroine is far from a full-fledged TSTL character but ugh, she keeps on saying things like ‘I’m mediocre’, ‘I’m nothing special’, ‘I’m average’ throughout the book as if she wouldn’t stop until she’s used up all possible synonyms associated with Inferiority Complex. Which is a contradiction, I must say, because America is neither of these things, at least in my opinion. She’s awfully honest but likable enough to socialize and be cordial, has a spunky personality befitting of her being a redhead, and a bangin’ sense of humor. Also, she’s no pushover and even had her shining moments of assertiveness here and there. So why, America, why?!

2. Cheesier-than-thou Dialogues. There’s no way in the world this book is gonna win the Pulitzer Prize. This, I can wager my life on, surely. And yeah: I don’t exactly feel like my vocabulary has been enriched in any way whatsoever. The narrative didn’t have me seething in literary envy, unsurprisingly. No grammatical acrobatics, no maddening impulse to jot down quotes because there’s nothing much quotable anyway. Romance in YA can get really cringe-inducing sappy sometimes and this book is guilty as charged more than once.
Case in point:

3. Awkward character names. Yes, I’m totally nitpicking the hell out of the most juvenile of details, but you know there’s some sorcery going on when our heroine’s mom is named Magda, while her ex-boyfriend’s mom is named Lena. As in Magda and Lena. Well hello there, subtlety. And I’m totally cool with names like Aspen and Maxon but why does our heroine’s name had to be America? And why does half of the characters have outlandish names while the other half have generic ones? I mean, come on book. Make up your mind.

4. Haphazard World-building. I have so many questions about the setting of this book but not even a half of them were answered, which shouldn’t be the case at all, considering this should be the introduction to our trilogy. What year is it exactly? What’s the historical background of the Selection Background? What exactly are the northern-southern rebellions about? It was all so vague. True, the book made several attempts to touch on the actual details of Ilea’s History and some of the inner workings of the palace policies, even a glimpse of a state visit of guest international monarchs but it felt like the plot focused too much on the caste system of its society that it overshadowed everything else. Gotta admit with most critics that this is very much ‘The Bachelor-esque’.

5. Clichés, Clichés, everywhere. It is no disclaimer I guess to say that there really isn’t any plot twist that will make you drop the book from shock but boy did I turned pages like I’m chasing some imaginary deadline. The thing about clichés is that they’re easy and light to read and therefore wouldn’t require any kind of long pauses in between. It’s pretty much a come-and-go experience, but surprisingly, this didn’t affect my eagerness to finish it because, well, generally, I also have:

5 REASONS WHY I NEED FLUFF IN MY LIFE

1. Predictability sometimes means Cozy. It’s a legit literary anomaly: Some shallow books can be potentially addictive for no apparent reason at all other than that it’s comfortable. We know what we want to happen and we know at the same time that it’s gonna happen. That’s how shallow books work, I guess. Who am I kidding, I know I bought this book with no expectations at all so technically, it met all my expectations in that sense. See what I did there?

2. Because we need Love Triangles so that we can pick who we want to ship with the heroine OURSELVES. Can I just say how much I appreciate that Prince Maxon isn’t channeling any ‘Edward-Cullen-esque’ style of dating? Can I just take a moment to pretend that I’m a lunatic teenager and say ZOMGAH PRINCE MAXON FTW! ❤ ❤ ❤ (Cue: Reviewer reputation shattering into a million shards.)

3. Because shallow books are the fastest routes to fantasylandia. We may not exactly adore the heroine, but dang , what will we not give to be in her shoes, right? And besides, how closer can you get at the ultimate epitome of romantic imaginations than making a literal prince fall for you? Also: Kissing scenes.

4. Because like desserts, Fluff is like guilty pleasures in reading. Serious-themed books can get really stressful at times and reading light materials is like reminding ourselves to take a breather, relax and enjoy reading again for what it is.

5. Because sustaining our illusions of happy-ever-afters feels good, sometimes. Okay, maybe not so much after finishing the story and coming back to reality but heck—it’s refreshing and fun once in a while to discard my jaded cranky-pants in exchange of cotton-candy pink dresses, palaces, fluttery, lace, first kisses and ahhhh, tiaras!

MAY TBR

maytbr_ed

All in all, April has been a good month and it might be hard to top my recent productivity to date, but I’m feeling quite ambitious for May. I don’t know why exactly, but I’m just in the mood to do some serious damage to my TBR Pile so I can justify another round of Book Haul I’m planning to have in June. (Gah, it’s about time!) Hence, I’m challenging myself to read SIX BOOKS for this month. Yup, you’ve read that right.

So what exactly is the perfect genre to take on if you want to READ UNSTOPPABLY? Oh yeah.

It’s time for THRILLERS AND MYSTERIES!

I don’t know about you but thrillers and mysteries have this kind of effect on me: I find them so irresistible to ever put down that it’s so likely I’ll finish a book in one day. I’m feeling pretty confident I’ll succeed in this pursuit, more so because the books I have for this month’s TBR are books I’ve been dying to read for a long time, so yeah.

To begin with, I picked two books from my most recent haul: a creepy Japanese Dystopian novel about suicide pacts (Harmony) and a gothic historical fiction set in the 16th century about witchcraft and medieval horrors (Holy Fools). I also can’t begin to tell you how excited I am that I’m finally reading Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children after almost a year of just gazing at it lovingly on my shelf. (I have this weird habit of putting off for later books that I think I will love; don’t even ask.) Plus, I’ve also included Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl in the list, a book everyone has been raving about since it came out. I’ve read her book ‘Dark Places’ back in 2011 and I’m damn sure this will be a lot more terrifying. On top of everything else, I have two books from the queen of crime herself, Agatha Christie (Murder at the Vicarage & And Then There Were None). This reading list literally gives me shivers! Thriller Game Face on!

Have a wondrously creepy month in reading guys

and enjoy the rest of your summer!

APRIL WRAP UP

aprilwrap

aprilwrap22

Whoa what a month!

April zoomed faster than I ever thought it would. I think time really flies when one is enjoying the moment, don’t you think so? Things are picking up in real life, too—I no longer feel as glum or as bipolar like I did in March and oh yeah, same thing goes for the weather. Summer is in full-swing right now in Manila and though I’m really no big fan of the sweltering heat, I have to admit that it somehow lifts up my spirit these days. (It’s just plain hard, I guess, to find time for moping about and sulking around when one’s too busy taking multiple showers every day.) Weird or what? I also feel so much more productive after a very long time of procrastination and neglect. I think I managed to finish my entire reading list halfway through the month which gave me plenty of time to catch up with my reviews and to squeeze in some more extra reads on my e-books stack. I even managed to actively participate for poetry month and I hope you guys had as much fun as I did! Yay! Good job, dardenitaaa!

• Looking For Alaska, John Green (Date finished: April 9) ★★★★★
•The Sky is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson(Date finished: April 12 ) ★★★★★
• Rainy Day Women, Jane Yardley (Date finished: April 14 ) ★★★☆☆
• The Selection, Kiera Cass (Date finished: April 26 ) ★★★☆☆
• The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Jennifer E. Smith (Date finished: April 29) ★★★★★
• The Elite, Kiera Cass (Date finished: April 28) ★★☆☆☆

Postcards – Sarah Kay

Sarah-Kay

Postcards

Sarah Kay

I had already fallen in love with far too many postage stamps.

When you appeared on my doorstep wearing nothing but a postcard promise.
No, appear is the wrong word.
Is there a word for sucker punching someone in the heart?

Is there word for when you’re sitting at the bottom of a roller coaster
and you realize that the climb is coming,
that you know what the climb means,
that you can already feel the flip in your stomach from the fall
before you’ve even moved?

Is there a word for that?
There should be.
You can only fit so many words in a postcard.

Only so many in a phone call,
only so many into space before you forget
that words are sometimes used for things other than filling emptiness.

It is hard to build a body out of words – I have tried.
We have both tried.

Instead of laying your head against my chest, I tell you about the boy who lives downstairs from me.
Who stays up all night long practicing his drum set.
The neighbors have complained.
They have busy days tomorrow,
but he keeps on thumping through the night convinced, I think, that practice makes perfect.
Instead of holding my hand, you tell me about the sandwich you made for lunch today.
How the pickles fit so perfectly against the lettuce.
Practice does not make perfect.
Practice makes permanent.

Repeat the same mistakes over and over
and you don’t get any closer to Carnage Hall, even I know that.
Repeat the same mistakes over and over
and you don’t get any closer!
You never get any closer.

Is there a word for the moment you win tug of war?
When the weight gives
and all that extra rope comes tumbling towards you.
How even though you’ve won you still wind up
with muddy knees and scratches on your hands.

Is there a word for that? I wish there was.
I would have said it.
When we were finally alone together on your couch,
neither one of us with anything left to say.

Still now, I send letters into space.
Hoping that some mailman somewhere
will track you down and recognize you
from the descriptions in my poems.

That he will place the stack of them in your hands and tell you 
“There is a girl who still writes you. She doesn’t know how not to.”

‘It’s not you, Book. It’s me.’

rainy

Every once in a while we come across a book that does not necessarily suck but is not stellar-beyond-imagination either. We don’t hate it, but of course, not hating a book does not automatically translate to loving it. I felt that way about ‘Rainy Day Women’ by Jane Yardley.

It’s in fact a very good read—a well-told story about a super smart sixteen-year old heroine with a distinct voice. The setting of the story is also charming in a quirky kind of way; she’s the only girl among four children—a family of geniuses living in a haunted house during 70’s era. That premise is golden, right? So where exactly did it fall short and why am I only giving it three stars?

I don’t blame the book. It’s an honest-to-goodness classic ‘it’s not you book, it’s me’-scenario. I finished the book in just a day, which says a lot about how zippy the narrative was, but I guess I just probably wasn’t in the right mood for it that day. To be completely fair, I really have no major issues about the story because as far as plot is concerned, it met all my expectations. I even think the ending was terrific, and that gets a lot of brownie points in my book. Also, Jo Starkey, our heroine, says things like:

“On and on and on—controlled and deliberate, the exercise of a guitarist’s practiced fingers; to want someone so bad you could beg. Gagging for it. The plots of novels, the lyrics of torch songs , the sound of singers weeping into a mike. So it was all true, then—it sucked the power from you, flooded your brain. Eventually, something happened to me that bleached out even these thoughts; a long, creamy, tickly sensation that made my limbs shudder, something partly pleasant and partly not, totally outside my control. So it was true, then. He laughed softly into my hair.

You might argue that rating a book should solely consist of its content’s merit and that’s an excellent point. I am however the kind of reviewer who includes the entirety of the reading experience in evaluating how good a book is. I believe that along with the strength of storytelling, we should also consider barometers of how much we’ve enjoyed reading the story itself—Was the story compelling enough for me to care about the characters? Was it so memorable that I couldn’t stop thinking what happened to them even after the book ended? Was my mind blown? Will the book make me gush gibberish when I sit down to write a review for it? Will I shove this book down the throats of my friends and shamelessly tell them that they need to read this book before they die?

Sure, I probably am harsh and might be asking too much of this book, but this has always been my definition of an excellent read. How nice it would be if we live in a black-and-white world where books are really just either terrible or outstanding. Sadly, there will always be books falling in between the gray areas. And there will always be days when readers can get really too demanding on the books they read, but at the end of the day a great book shouldn’t really fail under that excuse, right? So I’m not closing my door on this one. Someday, I might pick up Rainy Day Women again and give it another shot—who knows? When that time comes I might probably laugh out loud at how wrong this review post was.

Until we meet each other again in the future, book. See you, when I’m a better reader.

Forget-this-not Fridays #5

billy-collins

Forgetfulness

Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Tag Thursdays #5: The Great Perhaps Mixtape

greatperhapsmixtape

Something experimental this way comes!

 I have finished Looking for Alaska recently and oh goodness, I still haven’t quite moved on from the heartbreak. I still think about the characters these days and it’s likely they won’t leave my mind anytime soon. I haven’t written a proper review yet since I’m still searching for the right words, but it will come up sooner or later. So for the mean time, I’ve created this mixtape of songs that describes every emotion I have for the book. Ah, John Green. Your stories always bring on the feels! 

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

Lyrics after the cut. Continue reading

What-if Wednesdays

If I could marry a poet, I would marry…

philkaye Phil Kaye!

I have the biggest crush on this guy not only because he’s tons of cute, but because his way with words is just gorgeous and heartbreaking. Phil is a well-known spoken-word poet which means he has participated in a lot of poetry slams and performances. I’ve actually found out about him through Youtube, and I’m sure you’ll be just as mesmerized as I am once you hear him read out loud one of his best works, and quite possibly one of the most moving and powerful poems I’ve heard in a long while.

Repetition by Phil Kaye

He’s mine! Haha.